Smaller Navy

The Navy's top officer advocating fewer sailors? That is unheard of.

But Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, uttered those vessel-rocking words last week at the U.S. Naval Institute's "Lessons from the Desert Wars" symposium in Virginia Beach, Va.

"I want a smaller Navy," said Clark to uncomfortable rumblings from the mostly navy blue, khaki and white-uniformed audience. "I've spent three years doing the economics of this."

The new, electric DD(X) boats will require 25 percent fewer sailors than current destroyers, and future aircraft carriers will require 1,000 fewer shiphands than existing flattops, Clark said. Despite the need for fewer sailors, he still wants an additional $10 billion a year "to have the kind of Navy we're dreaming about."

PR-savvy Army

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's new chief of staff, obviously took notes on his predecessor's press shyness. The Army now is courting the media.

"Wherever you find yourselves — where you worship, where you work, in your volunteer group, everywhere in your community — never miss an opportunity to tell the story of the splendid service America's sons and daughters are performing while winning the war on terror, and of their sacrifice furthering the cause of peace around the world," Schoomaker said Oct. 7 at the Association of the U.S. Army's 2003 Annual Meeting.

An Army communications official even dared the press to take Schoomaker up on his offer.

After Schoomaker spoke, the service distributed four-color brochures to attendees on his speech. Titled "An Army at War, Relevant and Ready: Meeting Our National Security Challenges, Now and in the Future," the handouts discussed service competencies, capabilities, objectives and focus areas.

They include:

* Provide land power to joint forces.

* Train and equip soldiers and leaders.

* Win the war on terrorism.

* Develop troops with a warrior ethos.

Paint-by-number IDs

Differentiating between friendly and enemy troops is an art of war. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Defense Department used some high-tech tactics to help eliminate the centuries-old friendly fire problem, including installing 10-inch color video and touch-screen Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and-Below displays in U.S. and coalition vehicles.

But DOD also turned to low-tech, Renaissance age solutions in Iraq that left many aviators scratching their helmets. U.S. and coalition forces painted a large, orange panel on top of armored vehicles so pilots could distinguish between allied and enemy forces.

"We really stumbled into that," said Marine Maj. Gen. James Amos, commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "We need a better way to mark our vehicles."

The two-star general said Marine aviators flying at 15,000 feet would never see the orange panels because of the distance, and Devil Dog helicopter crews hovering at 150 feet would miss them because of their angle of attack.

Painting the entire vehicle orange might help. But it would not do anything for camouflage.

2004: A network odyssey

The Army's Training and Doctrine Command has dubbed 2004 the year of networked battle command. The organization, based in Fort Monroe, Va., will take a 12-month journey into the study of digital communications, which is designed to speed U.S. decision-making and get inside enemies' planning cycles, said Gen. Kevin Byrnes, Tradoc commanding general, speaking Oct. 7 at AUSA's meeting.

Tradoc officials apparently want to discover black holes in the Future Combat System's information-processing universe. "We won't stop until we get the FCS network right," he said.

FCS is the Army's next generation of manned and robotic air and ground vehicles. The 18 platforms will fight as one connected by a fast, secure communications network.

"If you can't get the network right, the 18 systems won't work," Byrnes said.

Gilligan's sincere island

You gotta like John Gilligan, the Air Force chief information officer. He tells it straight.

After two years of studies, the service plans to outsource routine information technology equipment and operations at its U.S. bases. The Air Force has started another study, which it will complete next year, to determine what equipment and operations it will outsource, what contracting mechanisms it will use, how much money the initiative will cost and when the service will start it.

Although not talking directly about these efforts, which could make the Air Force ready for IT outsourcing in late 2004 or 2005, Gilligan said, "we're more reticent than other services on [enterprise resource planning]. We want their lessons learned and be right behind them."

Air Force officials watched the Navy take knocks for the Navy Marine Corps Intranet so they do not want to make the same mistakes.

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